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SheGives exceeds the half-million dollar mark

They assumed they were going to be just a handful of women pooling their money for charity. By combining their dollars, they hoped to collect $50,000 their first year, which they’d distribute among worthy nonprofits.

Less than two years later, Boston-based SheGives has grown so robustly – it now has 90 members – that it’s closed to new ones until the fall. And, as of this week, its total giving has hit more than a half-million dollars, an amount it originally thought would take many years to raise.

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“The whole board is shocked,” said SheGives president Kirstan Barnett, a partner at the Boston hedge fund Bracebridge Capital. “We really thought we were going to put together a group of 10 to 20 friends, and we never thought we’d get to over $500,000 in a year and a half.”

SheGives has a “portfolio” of eight nonprofits chosen after extensive vetting, from scrutinizing their financial statements to interviewing their executive directors. Using that due diligence, members decide how to divvy up their donations.

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Members under 40 must donate at least $1,000 a year, and those 40 and over must pledge at least $2,500 annually.

Barnett calls the approach “a vehicle for intelligent philanthropy.”

The group’s latest grants, totaling $280,000, were announced Tuesday evening at the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill. They went to: BUILD, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to high-risk high schoolers; College Bound Dorchester, a school readiness program; Engineering Adventures, a Museum of Science after-school program; Lovin’ Spoonfuls food rescue; My Life My Choice, which fights sex trafficking of girls; Raw Art Works, a youth arts group; Science Club for Girls, which offers free STEM classes; and Teach Plus, a teacher training program.

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The founding members of SheGives include Merit Cudkowicz, chief of neurology at Mass. General; assistant US attorney Leah Foley; South End interior designer Erin Gates; Jennifer Lum, cofounder of Waltham-based Adelphic; Techstars Boston managing director Katie Rae; Nancy Simonian, CEO of Syros Pharmaceuticals in Watertown; and Bracebridge Capital cofounder Nancy Zimmerman.

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SachaPfeiffer.
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